SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Minister. Thank you for a generous welcome here to this very beautiful city of Samarkand. I’m particularly grateful to our hosts, President Karimov and to Foreign Minister Kamilov, for inviting us all here and for hosting this particular meeting. And I’m grateful to each of our fellow ministers for taking the time to come on relatively short notice, but this is an important first – the first time we have met as a group in this format. And I regret that we are all running a little bit late as a consequence of the weather, and I thank everybody for their patience in allowing the schedule to be pushed back a little bit.
To begin with, let me just say that the United States does support the sovereignty and the territorial integrity and the independence of each country that is represented here. And it’s very important for the countries of the region, in our judgment, to have healthy and mutually beneficial relations among yourselves, each of you, country to country, but also with neighbors and with all countries. And that’s really what brings us here.
For our part, we want to broaden and deepen our bilateral relationships through the region. And we need to be clear that friendship with one country does not – at least it should not – diminish the possibilities of friendship with another country. This is not a zero-sum game. Every country has the right to manage its relationships with whichever country is chooses, or not; to be free from external pressure and from intimidation. And that is a fundamental principle which brings us to the table.
Today, we are going to focus on four areas in particular. And I think because of the time change, we’re going to have an opportunity to informalize the conversation a little bit and to do it over a working lunch. But we’re going to talk about economic growth and connectivity, the environment, regional security and stability, and the human dimension.
And we all know, of course, that in this particular moment of history, economic and security issues go hand in hand – they reinforce each other. Countries that work together in one arena will obviously find it easier to work in another arena. And today we recognize in a formal way a reality that has been clear for some period of time: The United States and the countries of Central Asia are partners economically now just as we are partners in the security sphere now. We’re building on something that we already have.
We want to help your economies to diversify and we’d like to see us both develop – all of us together, develop stronger trade and investment ties among each other and with other countries in the region. We want to work together to support a common New Silk Road project. We look forward to working with you to improve border procedures and infrastructure, to remove unnecessary burdens on businesses, and to fight corruption.
And today, we will issue a Joint Declaration on deepening our cooperation across a wide range of issues, including human trafficking, counternarcotics, and supporting the security and the stability of Afghanistan.
We’re also moving forward on energy security and diversification. And this, frankly – just that topic alone: energy security and diversification – would merit our meeting and getting together in the circumstances we are, but we know it’s much more than that. We think that unless our countries take the lead on these issues, we’re not going to see the meaningful progress that we all want to see. And we’ve made a good start on projects like CASA-1000, which is going to create a regional electricity market from Central to South Asia. But everybody here understands we not only can do more, we have to do more, in order to drive home the urgency of growing economically in ways that are green and clean at the same time.
Clean energy represents a remarkable market for the future. Toward that end, I am very pleased to announce that the United States is launching a new program called Smart Waters. This initiative will train the next generation of expert water managers and focus on river basin planning and sustainable water management.
We will also continue to support education in Central Asia by expanding the number of internships that are available for Central Asian students in the Fulbright and in the Muskie programs.
Of course, economic, social, and cultural initiatives don’t operate in a vacuum. They are closely related to the quality of governance and the strength of democratic institutions. In Central Asia, as elsewhere, people have a deep hunger for governments that are accountable and effective. The countries of Central Asia pledged to meet international standards after they became independent, and each is working with us and themselves in order to meet those standards. We should have no doubt that progress in democratic governance does lead to gains in every other field about which we are concerned and about which we are talking.
Over the past 24 years, the United States has willingly and happily developed strong relationships with each of the countries that are represented here. My visit to the region today is designed to build on those relationships. Going forward, we will continue to strengthen the economic, the political, the good governance, and the security ties that facilitate cooperation between our countries. And I look forward to doing so in a climate of genuine warmth and friendship, and I appreciate each of my colleagues already creating that kind of an atmosphere for our discussion as well as for our relationship.
With that, I yield the floor to my colleague, Foreign Minister Kamilov.